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The term laser interstitial thermal therapy (LITT, also referred to as laser-induced interstitial thermotherapy or laser-induced thermotherapy or interstitial laser therapy) is a surgical procedure in which destruction of soft tissues in the body is effected through high temperatures generated by the local absorption of laser energy. LITT is also sometimes referred to as laser ablation or laser thermal ablation, but this terminology is inaccurate since the goal of LITT is to destroy tissue through thermal coagulation and thermal necrosis rather than by removal (ablation).

LITT is generally performed using optical radiation in the near-infrared wavelength range (from about 700 - 2000 nm), though when appropriate chromophores are available, visible wavelengths (e.g. green) can also be used. Photons launched into tissue meet one of three fates: scattering, absorption, or exit from the tissue. When photons are absorbed, the energy from the photon is converted into inter- and intra-molecular energy and results in generation of heat within the tissue. At the same time the good absortion in tissue limits the size of the lesion created by the laser irradiation. So a compromise between good penetration and good absorption has to be found. After initial absorption the temperature generated spreads through the tissue and enlarges the lesion somewhat, dependant on the perfusion of the tissue. Large vessels will transport the heat away from the site and the effective temperature achieved is reduced.

As heating continues and tissue temperature is elevated, several processes occur which lead to the destruction or death of the tissue:

At temperatures of 100 degrees Celsius or more, water in the tissue and in the intracellular compartments may vaporize and lead to rupture or explosion of cells or tissue components.

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